The Lynx held a Women’s Health Night on Sunday, because even in a tough season it’s important to keep your sense of humor.
On the night Nafiza Collier returned to the court after her pregnancy, Ariel Powers was sidelined with a knee injury. Collier became the 20th player to play for the Lynx this season in their 33rd game, then brought his baby to his press conference after helping the Lynx beat Atlanta 81-71.
It was as if someone was making a point about the Lynx’s personnel issues, even if it was as redundant as the phrase “scoring a basketball.”
Collier is the Lynx’s best player in his best season. She missed 32 games and practiced fully for the first time on Saturday. Powers’ play varies greatly from game to game, but she didn’t miss a game until Sunday.
The Lynx’s future Hall of Fame center, Sylvia Fowles, was limited to 27 games and 27.6 minutes per game due to knee soreness and appeared to be limited by her knee during the game.
The Lynx’s original plan this spring may have been to play that starting five of Layshia Clarendon, Angel McCoughtry, Fowles, Damiris Dantas and Powers.
Clarendon and McCaughtry were not well enough to remain at work. Dantas struggled and is now away from the team for personal reasons.
Here is the list of point guards recruited by the Lynx since the preseason: Clarendon, Rachel Banum, Odyssey Sims, Lindsey Allen, Evina Westbrook and Moriah Jefferson.
Jefferson played well but dealt with his own knee pain.
Has Lynx coach Sherrill Reeve ever seen a season like this?
“I thought it was a lot last year,” Reeve said. “It’s just unfortunate. I think if you do this long enough, maybe you’ll experience things like that. We also always remember when we were healthy and lucky.
“I always remember the feeling that when we were healthy, don’t take it for granted because it’s not always going to be like that.”
Of all the injuries, Clarendon’s pre-season debacle was perhaps the most significant. Turnovers have been the Lynx’s most obvious problem this season, and the point guard rotation has contributed greatly to that.
There was another subplot on Sunday night. Powers is shooting 38.1% from the field while taking more shots than anyone else on the team. Powers has the worst shooting percentage of any Lynx starter, and she often shoots after holding the ball or beating multiple defenders.
She can carry a team when she’s hot, or take her teammates off the offense when she’s not.
Without her on Sunday, the Lynx offense wasn’t exactly smooth, but three Lynx guards led the team in shots and scoring.
Jefferson made seven of 11 shots, including four of her five 3-pointers, for 18 points. Kayla McBride made seven of 15 shots for 20 points. Rachel Banham made five of nine shots for 12 points before leaving the game with what sounded like a sprained knee.
“We always emphasize playing through Syl — that’s a big thing, being inside out,” McBride said. “But you know, Rachel’s eyes and mine light up when we see zones, and Moriah leads the league in three-point field goal percentage.”
Thanks to the league’s playoff format, the Lynx remain in contention with three games remaining.
They play in Phoenix on Wednesday night in their only remaining game against one of the teams they are competing with for one of the final playoff spots.
They play Seattle on Friday night at Target Center, in Fowles’ final home game, against another retiring legend, Sue Byrd.
In this season of changing point guards and passing, the Lynx will finish the season at Connecticut, which recently signed Sims.
Moriah Jefferson vs. Odyssey Sims with a Lynx playoff berth?
This was not possible a few months ago. It’s pretty much a given now, if you want to guess, that the current Lynx roster can go that far.